Don’t be a fool! Close this book at once! It is nothing but foma!
Foma, of course, are lies.
OK, so, this book was incredibly hard to put down. It didn’t take me long to finish at all (the fact that this book is only just over 200 pages is only a slight factor into this). Surprisingly what kept me going wasn’t the characters or the plot. I often found myself having to reread pages when I picked the book back up to remind myself of what had happened in the previous chapter.
No, what kept me going was the language and the made up religion of Bokononism.
Vonnegut is hailed as a great satirical author. But before Cat’s Cradle, the only book of his I’d read was Slaughterhouse Five. And I found myself too spaced out by the surreal nature of that book to take in the satire. But Cat’s Cradle was different. The book essentially pokes fun at the ineptitude of government, our love of technology (well, this wasn’t so much ‘poking fun’ as it was showing us that our obsession with technology could one day destroy the planet), and at religion itself.
The opening quote of this post is actually the opening quote of The Book of Bokonon. Strange, right? To have a religious tome tell you upfront that everything within its pages is lies? But no. I think, personally, that this is a way of suggesting that although everything in this holy book is lies, people find comfort in those lies anyway.
Sidebar: I also enjoyed the fact that there were many different versions of this particularly holy book; that no two versions were quite the same. Does this remind anyone of another famous holy book?
The best part of this entire novel was the religion. Because everything about this religion is everything actual religion should be: accepting of science, compassionate, forgiving, understanding. It’s almost as though Vonnegut were trying to create the perfect religion. Because I, as an agnostic bordering on atheism, found myself agreeing with many of the teachings of Bokononism. Here’s just a taste of a few of these teachings:
‘”Busy, busy, busy, is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.”‘
‘Now I will destroy the whole world … It’s what Bokononists always say when they are about to commit suicide.’
‘”It is not possible to make a mistake,” she assured me. I did not know that this was a customary greeting given by all Bokononists when meeting a shy person.’
So even though I kept mixing up the characters and the plot was nearly non-existent and rather predictable, I adored this book. Most probably because I was being introduced to a world where religion brought all kinds of people together, instead of being exclusionary. Therefore, despite the few mediocrities of this novel, I give Cat’s Cradle: